Salmond hails decision to keep Grangemouth open

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  By Martin Kelly
 
The people of Grangemouth breathed a huge sigh of relief today with news that the plant is to stay open.
 
In an announcement this afternoon, owners Ineos confirmed they had revised an earlier decision to close the petrochemical plant and would fire up the plant with immediate effect.  The company has also reversed a decision to lay off 2,000 contractors.

The move was welcomed by Scotland’s First Minister First Minister Alex Salmond who said a “potential disaster” had been averted and added that the plant’s future was now secure for 25 years.

“It’s been a great team effort from all concerned, including the unions and workforce, the management, Governments – and BP, who have made a material contribution to help defend and secure Scottish jobs and livelihoods.

“I am delighted that people have rallied round to protect these jobs, and now we can all agree that Grangemouth has an outstanding future.”

Mr Salmond acknowledged that was bound to be recrimination by some over why the plant “went so close to the cliff edge.”

He added: “However, as First Minister, I prefer to stress the positives including the fact that so many people have gone the extra mile to secure Grangemouth’s future.”

Mr Salmond had earlier revealed that he had cancelled planned campaigning in the Dunfermline by-election in order to focus on keeping the plant open. 

Earlier this week, as the crisis worsened, the First Minister led the Scottish Government as it sought to locate potential buyers for the site prior to the owner announcing it was to close the petrochemical facility.  However Mr Salmond has always stressed the desire to have its current owner Ineos manage the Grangemouth facility.

Following the announcement by Ineos, the Scottish Government has pledged conditional support for the company as it looks to develop its gas terminal at the facility.

In a statement to Newsnet Scotland, a spokeswoman for Scottish Enterprise confirmed the approval of £9 million of funding from the Scottish Government.

The spokeswoman said: “RSA funding of £9m has been approved and offered to support INEOS in its investment to import shale gas from the US as feedstock for the chemical manufacturing facilities.

“The next stage is for Ineos to formally accept the offer and thereafter the RSA grant will be paid in instalments as and when the project meets agreed milestones for investment and job safeguarding.”

Today’s news followed a climb down by union Unite whose members have now agreed to accept cuts to their pay and conditions.

Unite has agreed to the following:

  • No strikes for three years
  • Move to a modern pension scheme
  • Pay freeze for three years
  • Changes to union agreements on site including no full time union convenors

Calum MacLean, Grangemouth (UK) chairman said: “Unite risked 800 jobs and one of the UK’s largest manufacturing facilities over a union official investigation before any verdict had been announced.  It then advised employees to reject the change essential to the survival of Grangemouth.  Today’s U turn means Grangemouth now has an excellent future”.

Jim Ratcliffe, the chairman of INEOS Group, added: “This is a victory for common sense.  Unite advised employees to reject change and vote for closure.  Thank goodness people finally came to their senses.  Grangemouth now has a great future”

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish secretary said: “This decision is clearly very welcome.  Relief will ring right round the Grangemouth community, and across Scotland today.  Hundreds of jobs that would have been lost can now be saved and £300 million will be invested into the plant.

“Obviously today’s news is tinged with sadness – decent men and women are being asked to make sacrifices to hold onto their jobs, but the clear wish of our members is that we work with the company to implement its proposals.”

There will now be questions as to how an internal Labour party dispute over a selection process in Falkirk led to Scotland’s most important industrial facility almost closing down.

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